In Niger, newspaper publishers and journalists will embark on a one-week strike Monday to protest what they describe as President Mamadou Tandja's move to silence the independent media. 

The Niger Association of Independent Printers (ANEPI) also called on Nigeriens to join in the struggle to protect their freedoms. 

This follows President Tandja's decree last week giving sweeping powers to the broadcasting commission to take punitive actions against any media criticism of his planned 4 August referendum.

The president, whose second five-year term ends in December, wants a mandate to change the constitution to extend his rule for three more years. 

But the independent press is condemning the move as draconian and dictatorial.

"Today Monday, (the) Organization of Media of Niger has decided to not publish any independent newspaper from Monday to Friday. And we decided it because we want to react against the decision of the President, Mamadou Tandja, to concentrate all the power of the Supreme Council of Communication in the hand of the president of this council," said Abdulrahman Ousmane, owner of "Alternative" newspaper and a leading member of (ANEPI).

He said the strike aims to pressure President Tandja to reverse the decree.

"For us this decision is going against the principle of independence of this council. And so we decided to demonstrate until the cancellation of President Tandja Mamadou," he said.

Ousmane said the president's decree is unconstitutional.

"The Supreme Council of Communication according to the constitution is an independent institution, so now with this decision it won't be a reality. The council will be in the president's office," Ousmane said.

He said the president's decree undermines Niger's hard-won freedoms.

"We don't accept it because we have fought many years before to have an independent institution to regulate the media. So we don't accept this decision of President Mamadou Tandja to transform an independent institution to an institution dependent on him," he said.

Ousmane hopes the strike will impair the August 4 referendum.

"We think that our struggle will have an impact so Niger citizens will know that the press freedom and the independent media are very important in the democratic system. So we want to show Niger people what will happen to their lives without independent media," Ousmane said.

Embattled President Tandja plans to hold an August 4 referendum despite wide condemnation from opposition groups and the international community.